Artist Uses Grindr to Make Pancakes

No, that's not an innuendo.

Dries Verhoeven, Wanna Play? (Love in the Time of Grindr) (2014) Photo: Courtesy Hebbel am Ufer (HAU).

Dutch artist Dries Verhoeven has erected a glass-walled container in the center of a square in Berlin Kreuzberg for a rather unusual performance. Verhoeven plans to use the gay and bi-sexual sex and dating app Grindr to recruit a steady stream of its 90,000 Berlin users to the 2.5 by 14 meter container in which he has committed to live for 15 days. But, lest your mind make a bee line for the gutter, this is no public art porno—voyeuristic art project.

In collaboration with Berlin’s avant-garde performance art hub Hebbel am Ufer (HAU), Wanna Play sees the artist proposition nearby Grindr users with various non-sexual exchanges. On Wednesday afternoon, Verhoeven was looking for someone with whom to talk about the dreams they each had as children. Two had joined him in the container. But more everyday and banal propositions will dominate. “I will play chess with them, have breakfast, make pancakes, trim nails, we’ll shave one another or read to one another from our favourite books,” he writes in a statement about the project.

Verhoeven has taken five smart phones with him inside the glass box, which is located at the intersection of Oranienstrasse and Mariannenstrasse. His activity on those phones is constantly projected onto a large screen at the back of the structure. Everything will go onto the screens unedited, save the faces of the men with whom he’s chatting due to privacy concerns.  Those are slightly blurred and projected in negative colors to anonymize his participants—at least until they say yes and come for a visit. Verhoeven’s current request to those unsuspecting chatters is also projected onto the screen. And the whole thing is being live-streamed 24/7 on the project’s website.

From a conceptual standpoint, Verhoeven hopes Wanna Play will, for better or worse, demonstrate just how far you can recede from public life while still maintaining private interactions—and getting your groceries too. “Is it even still relevant to distinguish between internet and public space?” he asks in the statement, pondering whether the café’s days are numbered.

Verhoeven has conceded that he may see little response from a privacy-minded city like Berlin and one with a relatively low adoption rate of technology. Twitter and other social media platforms have seen  meager response from the German populace compared to other similarly-developed economies; Grindr has about half the penetration rate in Berlin as it does in London, relative to population. Knowing Berlin’s penchant for the off-beat, though, we guess he won’t starve.

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